A former manager accused of embezzling more than $50,000 from the New Harbor convenience store Dee’s Variety has admitted to felony forgery and theft charges.
Siarra M. Kear, 24, formerly of New Harbor and recently of Edgecomb, pleaded guilty Oct. 30 to one count each of class B forgery, class B theft by unauthorized taking or transfer, and class D negotiating a worthless instrument, according to court documents. The class B crimes are felonies, the class D crime a misdemeanor.
She was sentenced to six years in custody with all but nine months suspended, plus three years of probation, for the theft conviction. She will serve concurrent sentences of nine months and six months for the forgery and negotiating charges, respectively. She must pay $90 in fines.
Her probation conditions prohibit her possession or use of alcohol or illegal drugs and subject her to random searches and tests. She must undergo treatment for substance abuse.
The conditions bar her from Dee’s Variety and require her to pay $3,980.14 in restitution: $2,845.32 to the store, $634.82 to Bath Savings Institution, and $500 to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.
The restitution to the store will cover the gap between the business’s losses and reimbursement from its insurance provider, according to the attorneys for both sides.
Assistant District Attorney Matthew R. Gerety prosecuted the case. Portland attorney Michael P. Turndorf represented Kear.
Kear did not dispute the embezzlement, but the sides differed on the amount. The prosecution placed the amount at about $50,000, Kear and her attorney at about $30,000, according to Turndorf.
The conviction for negotiating a worthless instrument and the $634.82 in restitution to the bank are for knowingly cashing a bad check.
The $500 to the sheriff’s office will cover the agency’s costs to obtain cellphone warrants in its attempts to locate Kear, according to Gerety.
According to police, from Dec. 1, 2015 to Jan. 15, 2017, Kear embezzled more than $52,000 from the convenience store and gas station at the corner of Bristol Road and Huddle Road.
She was an employee of the store for about six years and the manager from January 2013 until January 2017, according to an affidavit by the investigating officer, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Detective Scott Hayden.
One day in early January 2017, $3,200 in cash went missing from the store, according to Hayden’s report. The same day, Kear didn’t show up for work.
A subsequent review of store records by the store’s owner led to the discovery of more than $35,000 in unauthorized checks payable to Kear, as well as thousands more in unauthorized charges to a business credit card in Kear’s name, according to the report.
The owner was later told that Kear had left the state Jan. 29, 2017. Hayden obtained a warrant for her arrest Feb. 7.
Kear was arrested in Colorado, made bail, didn’t show for an extradition hearing, got arrested again, bailed again, and didn’t appear for another hearing, according to Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Michael J. Murphy. She remained at large until this summer.
On Aug. 5, Kear called the sheriff’s office from her vehicle in the parking lot of Dee’s Variety and asked for someone to arrest her.
“She says she wants to straighten her life out, so that’s why she came back,” Murphy said at the time.
Kear worked for a tree care business for much of her time in Colorado, according to jail admission paperwork.
Dee’s Variety owner Patrice Dee addressed the court in a letter and in person during the plea hearing.
“The store was supposed to be completely paid off shortly after all this happened, but because of the money she took and the bills she wasn’t paying, I had to take out another loan,” Dee said in the letter.
“Even though all of this hurt me tremendously, the thing that hurts me the most is that she took my trust from me!” Dee said. “I will never again trust anyone the way I used to because of what she did.”
Kear’s attorney called the resolution of the case “fair” in the context of her age, guilty pleas, and, to his knowledge, lack of any prior criminal history.
“She has accepted responsibility (and) certainly feels very bad for what took place,” he said.
As Kear’s probation conditions indicate, “substances did indeed play a role in the case,” Turndorf said.
Kear “had a problem and she’s addressing it,” he said. Her probation conditions should help, he added.
Kear is in custody at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset, according to Turndorf.
She has an outstanding warrant in Colorado and could face prosecution there for failure to appear, Murphy said at the time of her August arrest.